Dell EMC Digital Transformation Goals at Dell EMC World

 Dell EMC Digital Transformation Goals at Del EMC World

Introduction

As many of my blog readers will know, I am attending Dell EMC World this week in Las Vegas. Today we got our introduction into how they aim to help customers realize the digital transformation goals they have and, quite frankly that their customers need. It is no secret that I have leveraged DELL hardware very effectively over the years to build highly performant solutions at a great price value. Sometimes to the envy of my peers who saw those results. I’m here because I intend to continue doing so.

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It is clear that DELL EMC is still very proud to be privately owned and they mentioned this once again. This gives them the freedom and flexibility they need to outperform the competition. DELL EMC files SEC records, so there is nothing to hide. I do note they have a couple of public owned companies in the business now. That model has gone hybrid as well it seems.

Given the vast amount of attention digital transformation gets nowadays it will be no surprise that DELL EMC is focusing its efforts to facilitate this transition for its customers. After all, an unrelenting focus on real customer needs is one of the cornerstones of digital transformation. As such, DELL EMC is drinking its own champagne.

The digital transformation challenge

While things are changing fast, this also has the consequence they last less long. That means that the need to move and deliver fast is certainly clear and present. This is because the time spam in which to deliver the ROI gets shorter as well. Together with that comes perhaps a more urgent need and that is to change course fast when needed. However, to ensure digital transformation becomes more than buzz or hype we need more than just agility and speed.

We need a modern service focused “serverless” IT architecture where the cloud model reigns due to its agility and elasticity. When we use cloud as delivery model and not a location we get the ability to leverage our architectures in both public, hybrid and private environments without making any solution or technology the goal instead of the services we deliver to the customer. I call that “Service Resilience Engineering” as this encompasses the need to focus the services we deliver and not infrastructure, architectures or technologies. This avoids being stuck in a location, a technology or vendor. To the extent that is possible, as (public) cloud per definition is perhaps the biggest attempt at vendor lock in at scale we have ever seen. This despite valiant and sometimes successful efforts of many to avoid it. They also mention cost efficiency as a public cloud issue for customers. Cost however is a limited metric; value is a much better one.

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Dell EMC has its eye set on helping customers do exactly that. This without making the mistake of leaving existing needs behind or failing to cater to more recent and emerging technologies and trends.

Budgets are limited. This means the old and the new IT architecture have to merge and transform where needed. We often do not have the ability and budget to go one hundred % green field in all or most situations.

One of the ways Dell EMC hopes to facilitate this is via a cloud-like pricing model. That means that even in cases where on-premises infrastructure remains needed customers can scale up and scale down. This leverages a pay for use model for components of their datacenter instead of the entire datacenter (Dell Technologies Rolls Out Flexible Consumption Models for IT from the Desktop to the Data Center). Even when, personally, I rather see smaller capex efforts more frequently when possible, this option is often not available. If that is not possible in an OPEX loving world that is very CAPEX shy, this initiative can only help.

Customers must do more than window dressing and avoid mere lip service to digital transformation. No matter what you call it, this will require a deep and broad understanding of user needs combined with an expert level understanding of information technologies, architectures and designs. That means that business will need to accept the technology experts into the C level positions, board roams and at the helm. The need for speed in delivery is too high and specialized to waste time on old school and very flawed models that see technology as a facility. Organizations trying to achieve digital transformation in that way will fail. Technology will lead the effort to deliver what customers require and demand. As DELL EMC puts it: “Every company is an IT company. Technology and your IT capabilities are at the center of driving digital transformation”. Having spoken with some customers here and having seen how farmers back home are digitizing their business despite lack of support from government and traditional IT providers, I agree.

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There is no one size fits all. Before you getting too excited and think that modernizing the data center will free up vast amounts of money for app development you might be in for a surprise. If you already have a decent datacenter environment. For many well run companies there is not much more money to be saved there. The cost of services and wages in regards to business operations and app development are already a magnitude of their infrastructure costs. Optimizing that further might not deliver that much. The big savings are not for the more up to date companies, those need to leverage their advantage now, not shave of more of ever less. So be ready for some major investments.

Some of the announcements

At Dell EMC World today, we saw announcements on the new generation 14 Power Edge server models that are adding all the tech updates that are available from Intel mid this year (Dell EMC Drives IT Transformation With the New 14th Generation of PowerEdge Servers). Especially when it comes to VDI scalability and local NVMe storage, we will see major improvements. The other areas of improvement are security, ease of automation and manageability in a software-defined world. One excellent improvement is that it is shipping with native 25GbE support! Awesome, 10Gbps becomes the new 1Gbps fast so to speak. 40Gbps is on the way out as 50/100Gbps take over. These improvements should keep us fully powered up until we see PCIe 4 arrive in the next server generation.

Storage wise we see lots of movement in the hyper-converged segment where cloud consumption models become more outspoken (see New Dell EMC Hyper-Converged Infrastructure Advancements and Cloud-Like Consumption Model Ease Adoption). I do note that the do not mention Storage Spaces Direct in their HCI offering while they do in their SDS efforts. The line blur but while S2D is not limited to HCI, it does deliver that as well.

They continue their efforts towards more software defined storage capabilities (see Dell EMC Software-Defined Storage Paves Way for Data Center Modernization). Note that this includes Microsoft Storage Spaces Direct on generation 14 servers available in the second half of this year. That is great news for people not willing to carry the engineering and support effort of building it themselves.

It will be no surprise that there is an ever-stronger move towards all flash solutions which seems to be moving faster and more widely across the industry and customers (Dell EMC Introduces New All-Flash Storage Systems to Help Customers Modernize Their Data Centers and Transform IT).

I am happy to see that they also introduced the SC5020 to the great Compellent series of mid-range storage that punches far above its perceived weight when configured properly. To me the SC series have always been and remains a gem in the traditional SAN offerings. I do still wish a native full featured SMB3 offering was be available in them, but for now we will do what we have been doing, build our own scale out file servers against it where needed.

On the network side, it is clear DELL EMC keeps focusing its efforts on open networking (Dell EMC Powers IT Transformation with New Open Networking Products). Another noticeable fact is that the push towards 25/50 and a 100Gbps truly picks up speed.

Dell EMC intends to remain a player in the data protection arena (Dell EMC Launches Integrated Data Protection Appliance and Expands Cloud Data Protection Portfolio). As this is an area I also focus on by leveraging commodity hardware, cloud and native in box capabilities I’m interested to see if the dedicated appliance vendors can keep up with other players in that field of endeavor when pitched against creative customers.

Conclusion

On top of the above, DELL EMC is highlighting the potential of artificial intelligence and virtual reality in the future.  Then there is security. In a world where work is a thing that you do not a place you go, mobility and security is and remains of paramount importance. Technology has to evolve to make this happen and leave bolted on security solutions behind.

I hope to dive deeper in to some of this as the conference continuous and I get the chance to speak with industry experts, both DELL EMC employees and my peers while here. Next to that, I am attending to provide feedback to DELL EMC on our needs and wants to achieve our goals, which means customers will gladly pay for our services.

Whether Michael Dell is more right than wrong will be determined by the market as they say. I do notice that if his vision does not materialize it will not be due to his lack of managerial and sales man skills. He can sell a vision and drive a company.

In case you think, DELL EMC tells me what or when to write, that is not the case. As my former account manager stated “I will gladly let Didier provide feedback to management at DELL EMC, but they will have to accept that it will be direct and not always 100% positive. It is honest and that is when they will learn where they can improve”. I always operate on that principle.

May 2017 will be a travelling month

Introduction

In ICT, you never stop learning. Changes come and go fast. Navigating through these turbulent times of rapid change, short value cycles in order to provide continuity in both services & value without falling behind or being held back is a challenge we all face every day. If you hire or employ technologists, please take a moment to consider what they pull off for you every day. It helps to be realistic on what to expect from and to achieve with them. For that a solid understanding of the technology ecosystem and good doctrine to achieve your goals are necessary. For that to really happen and for their efforts to pay off we need to make sure politics and bureaucracy are kept under control. Let your people shine and move ahead. Long term planning does not equate a strategy and you might find yourself out paced & maneuvered by the industry and your competitors. That’s a reason why you see technologist move up the ladder and take on the leadership role inside many companies. They tend to be better placed to see the opportunities and what these require. In that respect, it pays off to walk out of your office every now and then in order to prevent tunnel vision and echo chambers. That’s one of the reasons that for me May 2017 will be a travelling month.

May 2017 will be a travelling month

Cloud & Datacenter Conference Germany

First, I’ll be in Munich, Germany, fort he Hyper-V community day and to both attend / speak at the Cloud & Datacenter Conference Germany 2017. That’s a conference for and by the community and the speakers are all highly experienced people who talk the talk and walk the walk.

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I you can grab a ticket asap. From the very 1st edition the Cloud & Datacenter Conference Germany has set the standard for what a conference should be like.  I’ll be talking about SMB Direct / RDMA on the Hyper-V community day and about Windows Server 2016 Failover Clustering & Hyper-V at the conference. Please feel free to come over an chat.

Dell EMC World 2017

After that I’m off to DELL EMC World 2017 where I’ll be diving into the offerings that exit today and in the near future. As you might have guessed I’m very interested in the DELL Storage Spaces solutions, there take on and use of ReFSv3 and Windows Server 2016. Next to that, I would not be nick named RoCE Balboa if I was not interested in networking. Hardware wise I have my eye on the S-Series S6100-ON as that is one versatile piece of equipment. Man, I imaging having a lab with a 6 of those to test and play around with. No to mention the S2D clusters & backup targets to hammer them with a nice workload. Throw in the Mellanox cards for good measure. I can dream right ? As I’m a realist I’m also very interested in their servers and still, the Compellent offerings, which as far as traditional SANs go is one easy to manage & leverage piece of gear. It goes without saying I’ll be taking a look at what the EMC addition to the portfolio can achieve for us as well as the DELL EMC 3rd party offerings

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VeeamOn 2017

After that I continue on to VeeamON 2017 which makes a great addition to the two above. The Windows Server 2016 core stack as the basis for Azure Stack, S2D running on that great DELLEMC hardware. Now have that protected and made continuous available by the Veeam Availability Suite 9.5. That’s how you get an amazing stack of technologies on which to build, support amazingly good services.

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At VeeamON 2017 I’ll be joining two big names in the industry Luca Dell’Oca and Carsten Rachfahl to talk about ReFSv3. We’ll be attending sessions and “hanging out” at the MSFT boot as well.

So, no rest for a Microsoft MVP, Microsoft Extended Experts team member, Azure Advisor, a DELL Community Rockstar and a Veeam Vanguard. We’re always reading up, learning, investigating, sharing experiences & insights with our peers and learning from them. Conferences done right are very valuable and a great networking / leaning opportunity. Make the most of them when you can.

My value is your value

These conferences together with our focus on some very innovative and promising public and hybrid cloud technologies in Azure will keep me busy contemplating designs, testing the concepts of solution I have in my mind and delivering very efficient and effective solutions both in functionality as well as in TCO and ROI. That (and caffeine) combined with working with great and smart people is what makes me run. So for that reason alone I do not mind that May 2017 will be a travelling month.

Full or Thick Provisioned Volume on Compellent

Introduction

There are pundits out there that claim that you cannot create a fully provisioned LUN on a Compellent SAN.  Now that what I call unsubstantiated rumors, better know as bull shit.

Sure the magic sauce of many modern storage array lies in thin provisioning. Let there be no mistake about that. But there are scenarios where you might want to leverage a fully provisioned volume. This is also know a s thick provisioned LUN. You can read about one such a scenario where they make perfect sense in this blog post Mind the UNMAP Impact On Performance In Certain Scenarios

Create a  Full or Thick Provisioned Volume on Compellent

First of all you create brand new volume in the Storage Center System Explorer. That’s a standard as it gets.

You then map this volume to a server

At that moment, before you even mount that volume on your server let alone do anything else such a bringing it on line or formatting it you’ll “Preallocate Storage” for that volume in Storage Center.

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You’ll get a warning as this is not a default action and you should only do so when the conditions of the IO warrant this.

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When you continue you’ll get some feedback. This can take quite some time depending on the size of the volume.

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When it’s done peek at the statistics of that full or this provisioned volume on the Compellent.This is what it looks like when you look at the statistics for that volume after is was done. So before we even formatted the volume on a server and wrote data to it. It’s using all the space on the SAN for the start.

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Due to data protection it’s even more. It’s clear form the image above that a 500GB disk in RAID 10 fully provisioned is using 1TB of space as its all still in RAID 10 (no tiering down has occurred yet). Raid 10 has an overhead factor 2. The volume is for a large part in Tier 2 because my Tier 1 is full, so writing spilled over into Tier 2.

Now compare this to a thinly provisioned volume that we just created and again we haven’t even touched it in any other way.

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Yup, until we actually write data to the volume it’s highly space efficient, there is absolutely no spaces use and we’ll see only a little when we mount, initialize the disk in Windows, create a simple volume and format it.image

This is completely in Tier 2 and my tier 1 is full. I accept donations of SANs and SSD’s for my lab it this bothers you Winking smile. When we write data to it you’ll see this rise and over time you’ll see it tier down and up as well.

Dell Compellent SCOS 6.7 ODX Bug Heads Up

UPDATE 3: Bad and disappointing news. After update 2 we’ve seen DELL change the CSTA (CoPilot Services Technical Alert)  on the customer website to “’will be fixed” in a future version. No according to the latest comment on this blog post that would be In Q1 2017. Basically this is unacceptable and it’s a shame to see a SAN that was one of the best when in comes to Hyper-V Support in Windows Server 2012 / 2012 R2 decline in this way. If  7.x is required for Windows Server 2016 Support this is pretty bad as it means early adopters are stuck or we’ll have to find an recommend another solution. This is not a good day for Dell storage.

UPDATE 2: As you can read in the comments below people are still having issues. Do NOT just update without checking everything.

UPDATE: This issue has been resolved in Storage Center 6.7.10 and 7.Ximage

If you have 6.7.x below 6.7.10 it’s time to think about moving to 6.7.10!

No vendor is exempt form errors, issues, mistakes and trouble with advances features and unfortunately Dell Compellent has issues with Windows Server 2012 (R2) ODX in the current release of SCOS 6.7. Bar a performance issue in a 6.4 version they had very good track record in regards to ODX, UNMAP, … so far. But no matter how good your are, bad things can happen.

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I’ve had to people who were bitten by it contact me. The issue is described below.

In SCOS 6.7 an issue has been determined when the ODX driver in Windows Server 2012 requests an Extended Copy between a source volume which is unknown to the Storage Center and a volume which is presented from the Storage Center. When this occurs the Storage Center does not respond with the correct ODX failure code. This results in the Windows Server 2012 not correctly recognizing that the source volume is unknown to the Storage Center. Without the failure code Windows will continually retry the same request which will fail. Due to the large number of failed requests, MPIO will mark the path as down. Performing ODX operations between Storage Center volumes will work and is not exposed to this issue.

You might think that this is not a problem as you might only use Compellent storage but think again. Local disks on the hosts where data is stored temporarily and external storage you use to transport data in and out of your datacenter, or copy backups to are all use cases we can encounter.  When ODX is enabled, it is by default on Windows 2012(R2), the file system will try to use it and when that fails use normal (non ODX) operations. All of this is transparent to the users. Now MPIO will mark the Compellent path as down. Ouch. I will not risk that. Any IO between an non Compellent LUN and a Compellent LUN might cause this to happen.

The only workaround for now is to disable ODX on all your hosts. To me that’s unacceptable and I will not be upgrading to 6.7 for now. We rely on ODX to gain performance benefits at both the physical and virtual layer. We even have our SMB 3 capable clients in the branch offices leverage ODX to avoid costly data copies to our clustered Transparent Failover File Servers.

When a version arrives that fix the issue I’Il testing even more elaborate than before. We’ve come to pay attention to performance issues or data corruption with many vendors, models and releases but this MPIO issue is a new one for me.